What Drives Riverdale's Senior Voters

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Bella Schupak, 96, has voted in every primary since 1935.

Photo by: Rebecca Harris

Bella Schupak, 96, has voted in every primary since 1935.

Many of the residents at Hebrew Home in Riverdale took advantage of their right to vote in today’s primary election, a task made easier by the fact that the voting machines were brought to them.

Mark Carter, a registered Democrat who lives at Hebrew Home, voted for Bill Thompson, citing Thompson’s focus on education as an important selling point for him.

“His background as comptroller means that he knows fiscal policy well, which is also very important and a reason why I voted for him,” Carter said.

Carter received most of his information on candidates from television. It is physically difficult for him to handle a newspaper nowadays, so he listened to the candidates’ debates and the commentary that followed to help him make his voting decision.

Vincent Cass, another Hebrew Home resident, is a registered Republican, a rarity in the nursing home. Touting himself as holding down the fort as a Republican voter, Cass had a major criticism of all candidates across both parties.

“None of the candidates adequately addressed terrorism. There was no comprehensive counterterrorism plan put forth by any of them,” Cass said.

Cass voted for Joe Lhota, a budget director and deputy mayor for operations in Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s administration. Cass, a fan of Giuliani and the work he did as mayor, voted for Lhota because Giuliani supports the candidate.

In talking to other residents, Cass said that the general consensus among registered Democrats at Hebrew Home is that support for Democratic candidates are mixed. He attributes Bill de Blasio’s recent popularity as a product of his bi-racial family’s appeal.

Bella Schupak, a registered Democrat since 1935, said the most important question she asks herself before voting is which candidate can she trust.

“I always think about whether the candidate surrounds themselves with good staff and advisers, and if they hold themselves to a high standard when it comes to their personal lives,” Schupak said.

Schupak grew up in a household where her family discussed important issues in the city as well as candidates, and she followed her father’s lead in joining the Democratic party.

Judaism is also a strong influencer in Schupak’s voting decision, not surprising considering Riverdale has a very large Jewish community.

“I usually vote for the Jewish candidates because to me that means they are analytical and will use the job to do good on behalf of the community,” Schupak said.

Hebrew Home, which has been serving the elderly in the community for 93 years, ensures that their politically active resident population can vote easily by bringing voting machines to the home.

“There are a lot of challenges in transporting the residents out to vote, and there is a real need for easy access to voting here because we have so many active voters living at Hebrew Home,” said Charlotte Dell, Hebrew Home’s director of social services.

Working with the Board of Elections, Dell was able to get one voting machine set up at the home where a consistent flow of voters stop to vote throughout the day.

“It really makes the residents feel empowered. What is happening outside of the home is very important to the residents as well as the outside community, so this gives them a real voice in the community,” said Dell.